Ina Fried

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Sprint, Best Buy Offering Students a Year of Free Cellphone Service

head_of_the_classWell, apparently T-Mobile isn’t the only carrier interested in breaking with cellphone industry tradition.

Sprint, along with Best Buy, announced a deal Monday that gives students a year of free service, including unlimited talk and text as well as 1 gigabyte of data per month. (Unlimited data costs $10 per month.)

Students don’t have to sign a contract but do have to pay a different “student activated price” for the phone — prices that are much closer to the unsubsidized price of the phones than they are to the kind of prices people are used to paying when they sign up for a new contract. (See a list below for current phones and prices.)

The deal applies to students, both K-12 and college students, starting a new line of service with Sprint. It is slated to run through Jan. 4.

Those who want even more free service can get extra by persuading others to sign up for a new line of service at Sprint. For every referral, students will get another 12 months of free service.

It’s the latest salvo from Softbank-backed Sprint, which has also been promising customers that they can keep their unlimited data plans for the life of their relationship with Sprint.

T-Mobile, meanwhile, has been taking a number of new approaches to win customers from AT&T and Verizon, including doing away with contracts, offering free international data and introducing a $10-per-month Jump program that lets customers upgrade their phone as often as twice per year.

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus